Hotel Americano 518 West 27th Street, New York; hotel-americano.com. 56 rooms from $325 (U.S.). No eco-rating.
For many years, the heart of New York's Chelsea warehouse district was a strangely hotel-free zone. It was a great place to cab to for underground nightclubs and industrial style speakeasies, but not for high-thread-count overnight stays.
Enter the Highline: New York's mile-long linear park, built on the bones of the old elevated railway and redesigned as an aerial greenway, spurred neighbourhood growth and real estate development when it opened in 2009.
It was only a matter of time before a hipster hotel like the Americano, which opened in the fall of 2011, made the scene. But this Grupo Habita property is so much more than a hotel.
The bar and restaurant are popular hangouts for local galleristas (this is still the heart of New York's gallery world) and fashionistas (it's located next door to the Elite modelling agency).
The striking architecture by Mexico's Enrique Norten make it a destination for filmmakers, too. When I stayed there, the filming of an independent Mexican movie about two madcap playboy brothers who spend a weekend in New York was in full swing.
Like a cinematic hôtel particulier, the Americano is the antithesis of the bland corporate hotel.
It is a place to hide out, hold court or just sip a latte lobby-side and watch the neighbourhood roll by.
Norten's distinctive architecture – the hotel is a sleek glass structure encased in a metal mesh façade that pays homage to the neighbourhood's industrial roots – makes it a Wallpaper* magazine favourite. A glass-enclosed elevator ferries guests from the lobby all the way to the 10th-storey rooftop terrace.
There is a residential loft feel to the rooms and studios designed by Arnaud Montigny, the French designer known for his work at Parisian boutique Colette. A Japanese element – wooden platform beds, muted colours and an urban ryokan vibe – is married to a mid-century one, with classic modernist furniture and the odd beanbag chair thrown in for good measure. There is an understated minimalism at play here – serene not sumptuous, low-key rather than luxurious.
The rooftop terrace offers a pool and cabanas in the warmer months and an outdoor thermal bath in wintertime. The technology – such as the Samsung LED TVs with full HD and customized iPad with in-room controls – is as cutting-edge as the design. The soft-washed denim bathrobe by Loden Dager (also the designers of the staff uniforms) makes a chic and cozy in-room wrap and the oversize Turkish bath towels, Japanese Imabari washcloths and Aesop toiletries make up for the often inconsistent water pressure (staff were still getting the plumbing kinks worked out when I visited last month)
Guest bicycles provide the means to explore the nearby Hudson River Greenway bike path that runs from the Cloisters down to the Statue of Liberty boat docks, as well as the surrounding area dubbed by locals as the “Chelsea Riviera.”
The lobby café is a great hangout for guests and locals – especially at breakfast when the lattes and croissant amandines augment the people-watching experience. The Americano dining room offers Latin-influenced French fare by chef Joseph Buenconsejo. The Oxacan lobster is noteworthy and the entrecote grille done comme il faut (as it should be). The dining room also offers a chance to rub shoulders with art-world darlings (spotted: Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping dining next to a semi-famous male model). In warmer months the outdoor terrace offers an intimate al fresco experience, and the 24-hour room service fare comes in bento boxes – quirky, and delicious.
The dining room service was impeccable and the hotel staff are enthusiastic. Taxis are hailed with a modicum of speed and a minimum of fuss, and impromptu hotel tours can be had if the moment is right. Some dodgy plumbing fixtures in my room were attended to by multiple well-meaning staffers with eventually efficient results.
This hotel is young but it's growing. It is still rough around the edges, but this is part of its charm. Its narrative grain and cinematic edge make it the perfect New York pad.
Special to The Globe and Mail